Letter to the Editor By "Martin Fairclough"

Martin Fairclough
Ella May Russell retires
To The Editor: I just read the press release, sent out by St. Mary's County government announcing the retirement of Mrs. Ella May Russell. Since arriving in St. Mary's county 22 years ago I have had the good fortune of working with Ms Russell on many projects. We (the St. Mary's County Community Development Corporation ) partnered with Ella May to establish The Jobs Connection. At that time it was located on Three Notch Road next to the Raley Watts Insurance building. Based out of this facility we built many programs under the Welfare to Work mantra helping the underemployed achieve employment, and the under-skilled gain skills so they became employable. Many of those programs were Maryland State award winning and some duplicated across the country. There are certain words that I use to describe Ella May Russell. At her core she is kind, she cares with an unbelievable passion for those citizens who were not dealt a good hand in their position in society. Ella May is unbelievably tough, she broke the glass ceiling of women in the workplace decades ago. She dealt with bureaucratic hurdles at the state level by rolling over them, by intimidation, through coercion, whatever it would take so that at the end of the day she secured the resources for the underserved in St. Mary's County. One of her visions was to expand Jobs Connection and incorporate it with a facility that was off the county campus. She wanted to locate close to where many of her customers resided or had easy access to get to. A very large building, which was subsequently expanded housed a one stop shop, for delivering programs to those in need. It is located at the intersection of Rt. 235 and Great Mills Road. For Jobs Connection it was a seamless integration, we were able to build a computer lab, to teach skills, resume writing assistance, the Small Business Development Regional Development Office was housed there, Kennedy Krieger joined the group and a wonderful program called Dress for Success was implemented. The whole facility was scheduled to open on a certain date, and I recall sitting in a meeting with the state bureaucrats, the builders , and many other stake holders. Ella May announced that she intended to open for business on April 11. A fairly high level, but obviously someone who did not know Ella May said, "Ms. Russell it is just not in the realms of reality to meet that deadline." A pregnant pause and then if i recall correctly Ella May, stood up pointed her finger at this gentleman and said "Your understanding of reality is wrong. Go back to Annapolis and change your reality to mine. This facility WILL open on time". It did. Along with her incredibly innovative mind , her tenacity, persistence and toughness, beneath all of that is a woman with a huge heart and a passionate desire to make things better for those in need. I can truly say Ella May Russell was one of my mentors. It will be a very hard task to find anyone with the capacity and passion for her work to replace her.